Expanding Rawls to a Global Scale

Sarah Sauter


In an attempt to apply his Theory of Justice to international politics, John Rawls constructs a schema called The Law of Peoples. In it, he enumerates criteria under which a nation might be categorized as a “decent hierarchical people” deserving of non-interference from liberal societies. He also develops additional duties liberal societies have concerning other “burdened states.” These include the giving of resources and technological advice in order for that state to become “well-ordered.” Peter Singer in his book One World presents two objections to this global strategy. First, he points out internal inconsistencies between Rawls’s two works Theory of Justice and Law of Peoples; one supports economic redistribution while the second restricts it seemingly contradictorily. Second, he argues that “well-ordered societies” ought to have a more immediate obligation to those suffering in other societies than the mere structural aid Law of Peoples advocates. The purpose of this paper is to respond to Singer’s objections on behalf of the Rawlsian system and in doing so demonstrate areas for improvement.


Rawls; Singer

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